Social care White Paper ‘fails to give West Sussex the funding we need now or in the future’

The government’s social care White Paper has failed to address pay and conditions in the care sector, West Sussex councillors have been told.

Figures from across the political divide have warned about a funding crisis in adult social care for years
Figures from across the political divide have warned about a funding crisis in adult social care for years

The White Paper, which was published last week, sets out a ten-year ‘vision’ for adult social care and gives information about funding proposals for the next three years.

While the consequences of the paper will be discussed in more detail by cabinet members once officers have finished studying it, disappointment about some of the funding proposals was shared during a meeting on Friday (December 3).

Jeremy Hunt, cabinet member for finance, said: “From my understanding, this paper fails to give us the funding we need now, let alone in the future.

“What is really disappointing is that the paper failed to set out any funding to improve pay and conditions for care staff, despite the clear warnings of recruitment and retention issues.”

It was a view shared by his namesake in the Commons – with that Jeremy Hunt saying it was ‘hard to see [the paper] as more than three steps forward and two steps back’.

He added: “It’s very hard to see an end to the workforce crisis which sees 40 per cent turnover in many companies.”

That turnover has been reflected in work from health think tank the Nuffield Trust, whose analysis of experimental data from the Department of Health & Social Care showed that the number of social care staff fell by 42,000 in the six months leading to the end of October.

The trust noted that not all providers submitted data during the analysis period, so the figure could actually be between 50,000 and 70,000 workers.

The county council’s Jeremy Hunt told the meeting: “Having seen Jeremy speak recently at the County Councils Network conference {in November}, all I can say is that at least someone in government understands the looming crisis in adult social care.”

But he and Keith Hinkley, director of adults & health, recognised that there was much to support in the White Paper.

Its focus on choice, independence, equality of care and the need to ensure social care was accessible to all those in need were particularly welcomed.

Also welcomed was the introduction of a cap on care costs –  the most anyone may need to contribute towards their care costs during their lifetime.

But Mr Hinkley said there were ‘gaps’ – not least of which was a ‘lack of certainty’ around how the £3.6bn set aside to cover that cap and other areas such as support for self-funders would be allocated.

He added: “There are some particular risks for West Sussex County Council in this regard given the high cost of care within the county and the number of self-funders that we have.

“There’s a level of uncertainty attached to that.